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Struggles continue for Kentucky offense during 14-3 loss to No. 5 Georgia on Saturday afternoon


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

It didn’t take much offense for Georgia to defeat Kentucky on Saturday.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) opened with a touchdown and began the second half with a TD, giving coach Kirby Smart’s squad all they needed in a 14-3 victory. Georgia notched its 11th consecutive victory over the Wildcats in the series between the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division foes.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said his team performed better than last week’s 20-10 loss at Missouri but wasn’t about to declare the loss a moral victory with four games remaining in the regular season.

“We’re way beyond any kind of moral wins and losses,” he said. “We’re practicing and playing to win, but I am appreciative of the team and the mentality they had all week. We weren’t proud of the overall product a week ago (at Missouri) and they did respond. Their attitude and their effort was really strong.”

Georgia running back Zamir White (3) is tackled by the UK defense on Saturday afternoon. (UK photo)

A bye week gave Georgia a chance to recover from a 41-24 loss to second-ranked Alabama two weeks ago. Kentucky’s offense continued to struggle two weeks after posting a 34-7 win over Tennessee  in Knoxville. Since that time, the Wildcats (2-4) have scored just one touchdown and 13 points in losses to Missouri and Georgia, respectively.

Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood made his first start in absence of starter Terry Wilson, who sat out while nursing a wrist injury he suffered last week in the loss to the Tigers. Gatewood threw for 91 yards while adding 23 yards rushing. The Kentucky freshman had a fumble in the second half, Kentucky’s lone turnover in the team’s lowest offensive output of the year.

“You know going into it, it’s going to be a tough day,” Stoops said. “Any quarterback that goes into playing Georgia, there is going to be some good and some bad. They’re going to create some havoc in there with the way they can rush. … overall he did some good things and there’s a lot to build on with him for sure.”

Gatewood wasn’t pleased with the outcome but felt at ease in the pocket in his first start with the Wildcats.

“I feel comfortable with the offense and with our guys,” he said. “We’ve just got to execute.”

The Wildcats managed 229 yards, with a chunk of that yardage coming from running back Chris Rodriguez, who recorded 20 carries for 108 yards. Kentucky managed the clock and had the ball for 35 minutes, collected two interceptions, and blocked a field goal attempt to end the first half, but failed to cross the goal line for the second straight season against the Bulldogs. Georgia shut out the Wildcats 21-0 last year in Athens.

UK quarterback Joey Gatewood (2) tries to elude Georgia defender Lewis Cine on Saturday. (UK photo)

Kentucky produced a 19-play drive that took 10:28 off the clock in the second quarter but couldn’t get into the end zone with a drive that concluded with a 34-yard field goal by kicker Matt Ruffolo. Stoops said the inability to score was frustrating.

“We’ve got to punch it in, we’ve got to score,” Stoops said. “That’s arguably the No. 1 defense in the country and if it’s not one thing, it’s another (with them).”

Georgia used a solid rushing attack, anchored by Zamir White, to wear down Kentucky’s defense. White rushed for 136 yards and scored a touchdown as the Bulldogs collected 215 yards on the ground.

Kentucky gets a chance to regroup with an open date before taking on Vanderbilt on Nov. 14 at Kroger Field. The Wildcats will follow that with games at Alabama and Florida, respectively, before ending the regular season at home against South Carolina on Dec. 5.

“We will learn from this and go from there,” Gatewood said. “We’ve just got to focus on getting better. I’m excited about the future.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com.


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